If you're tempted to pop a painkiller every time you feel a twinge coursing down your back, there's a new set of guidelines you may want to peruse first. Per NBC News and CBS News, prescription meds for lower back pain should be your go-to only when you've gone to every other option before them, according to the American College of Physicians' update. The guidelines, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, instead advise to first try exercise, massages, heat therapy, acupuncture—even something called "spinal manipulation," which is controlled force applied to a joint in the spine by an experienced health care professional. Even more holistic approaches (including yoga, tai chi, and meditation) are encouraged over opioids for long-term aches.
Dr. Steven Atlas, who wrote an accompanying editorial for the new guidelines, says they "may be a shot across the bow to insurers" to provide more coverage for these "alternative" treatments, per CBS. Not that the group is averse to all medications: It says anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and naproxen can provide relief, though acetaminophen hasn't been shown to be terribly effective. The main goal is to keep people away from drugs that can get them hooked. "Opioids should be considered only if no other treatments work and only if there are more benefits than risks for an individual patient," the journal writeup notes. As for those with acute back pain (defined as lasting four weeks or less, without pain shooting through the leg), a spine researcher tells the New York Times that patients can often just wait it out with no physician intervention at all. (Read more back pain stories.)